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Occupy Central

Last governor of Hong Kong Chris Patten calls on Britain to speak up when ‘one country, two systems’ is undermined

At panel addressing free speech and press freedom, he believes former colonial powers ‘should do more’ and ‘say more’

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 September, 2018, 10:48pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 September, 2018, 11:32pm

The last governor of Hong Kong has called on Britain to speak up more explicitly for the city whenever the principle of “one country, two systems” is being undermined.

Chris Patten was addressing a panel on Saturday at the Open Future Festival organised by The Economist in Hong Kong via London, which touched on free speech and press freedom.

He believed British officials “should do more” and “say more” about Hong Kong.

“I think they have been more explicit in the last year or two about the plain breaches that are undermining the Joint Declaration and the promises made in that by China and Britain,” Patten said. “But I think they should, like the rest of the international community, be more outspoken.”

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His remarks came a week after the British government issued its latest six-month report on Hong Kong in which Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt reiterated the Sino-British Joint Declaration remained relevant today despite earlier contrasting claims by the Chinese officials.

The report also warned of “growing concerns” over the issue of free speech in the city.

Patten lamented how the world viewed China, citing former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott in describing the attitude as a mix “of fear and greed”. Patten believed this view brought out the worst in the country.

The former governor reiterated that one country, two systems offered a solution for Hong Kong. He said the underlying problem was that many Chinese had not tried hard enough to understand what the Hong Kong system was.

Meanwhile, young local activists speaking at the same event believed it was difficult to sustain Hongkongers’ enthusiasm in the pro-democracy fight, just weeks away from the fourth anniversary of the Occupy movement.

Agnes Chow Ting, of the youth-led party Demosisto, said sustaining an atmosphere in which everyone cares about the city’s political system was “a very difficult thing for us, as activists or a political party”.

“The umbrella movement of course is very important in the history of Hong Kong, but a huge sense of powerlessness has been created,” she added, alluding to Occupy Central’s other name. “Hongkongers suddenly found out it was so difficult to fight for even a tiny change in the political system and it was very difficult to fight against the Communist Party.”

Chow called on those living overseas who cared about the mass sit-ins of four years ago to keep their eye on Hong Kong despite its lack of large-scale protests now. She added that the state of the city reflected the human rights situation in mainland China.

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Her party colleague, Joshua Wong Chi-fung, the poster boy of the Occupy movement, said apart from fighting for democracy and freedoms in Hong Kong, it was equally important to uphold the uniqueness of the city vis-à-vis the mainland.

Wong hoped Hongkongers, who lacked a say three decades ago in discussing the terms of the city’s handover to Chinese rule, could voice their sentiments in the run-up to 2047, when the one country, two systems blueprint expires.